Don Artemio looks to future on fast-growing Westside
To understand Don Artemio’s fast ascent on Fort Worth’s Westside, including its nomination for best new U.S. restaurant from the James Beard Foundation, co-founder Adrian Burciaga goes back to a meeting with employees in March last year — three weeks before the restaurant’s April opening.
Don Artemio’s backstory was on the agenda for the meeting, held in the restaurant’s Kimbell Room, named for the nearby museum: the Northwest Mexican scratch recipes of chef and co-founder Juan Ramón Cárdenas; Don Artemio’s history dating to the founding of the company’s original restaurant in Saltillo, Mexico; the Mexican writer who inspired the restaurant’s name; and the imbuing of what Burciaga calls “honest and authentic hospitality.”
“We want every one of them to be close to our guests and to tell our story,” Burciaga says.
The restaurant’s staff has spent more than a year telling those stories and offering up a menu that ranges from special tastings to small plates and tomahawk steaks for two — all in a dining room richly appointed with brick and other finishes that are evocative of Saltillo’s old houses.
It’s presumed the staff ended up telling the restaurant’s story to guests representing the James Beard award. Nominations for the annual honors closed in September, six months after the restaurant opened.
“You can’t just stand up and say, ‘Hey, look at me,’” Burciaga says. “That’s not how it works. Someone must have come and visited and noticed we were doing something special, then they put us on the map,” Burciaga says. “I was not expecting that. I was working toward being recognized one day. But not that soon.”
Burciaga learned of the nomination in January during a call from friend and chef Gino Rojas of Dallas’ Revolver Taco Lounge. Originally named a semifinalist, Don Artemio survived to the next round as a finalist. The restaurant and chef awards were to be announced June 5 in Chicago (after 360West’s press time).
As a bonus to attending the awards, Burciaga, Cárdenas and their wives were invited by Chicago chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless to cook during a party he’s hosting, Burciaga says. At the awards ceremony, “we get to walk the red carpet like the Oscars.”
The initial news of the nomination triggered a big boost in Don Artemio’s traffic, Burciaga says. Much of the influx is from out-oftowners. Some are coming to Fort Worth as a destination, while others are making a side trip during a visit to Dallas — including travelers on extended layovers at DFW Airport, he says.
“That’s very remarkable to know these people are making a special trip to come and see us,” Burciaga says.
Weekends are busiest, but it’s still not impossible to walk in and secure a table, a fact noted on a regional podcast by the owner of The Beast and Company fine dining restaurant, which closed this spring on the Near Southside. Fort Worth is not a foodie town, said the owner of The Beast, who threw in the towel after several weeks of commenting on social media about the city’s palate — or lack thereof.
Burciaga differs. “This is a foodie community,” he says, reeling off a litany of local restaurants and chefs he admires and well-regarded events like the annual Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival.
“The food scene in Fort Worth keeps growing and growing,” Burciaga says. “And we’re moving in the right direction. The best thing about it is we all know each other, and we’re all here to support each other. We’re in a great spot. We’re in a spot that’s better than it was 10 years ago.”
Burciaga is looking to what’s next for the Westside: the upcoming completion of the Crescent Real Estate-developed luxury hotel, apartment and office development across from Don Artemio. “That’s our clientele coming up soon.”